By Dr. Jee-Hoon Krska April 2017 issue
Dr. Jee-Hoon Krska is the the founder, program director and principal instructor of Keys 2 Success, a new program that seeks to improve the lives of disadvantaged children in Newark, New Jersey, through music education.
As a young pianist growing up in Malaysia, Jee-Hoon gained national recognition with performances before the Sultan and on broadcast radio. After immigrating to the United States with her family at the age of eleven, she continued her piano studies as a scholarship student in the Juilliard pre-college program under the tutelage of Olegna Fuschi. Upon graduating from high school Jee-Hoon studied electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ultimately receiving a Ph.D. Throughout her years at MIT she continued to study piano performance under David Deveau and has maintained an active performance schedule in years since, including with Yo-Yo Ma and .as a soloist with the Boston Pops at Boston Symphony Hall After earning her doctorate, Dr. Krska spent twenty years working in the semiconductor industry, leading global teams in product development, marketing, and strategy. During the last decade, she has also actively worked to improve the lives of the youth in Pennington Court, a Newark Housing Authority (NHA) public housing community that is home to many of the poorest minority residents in Newark, through involvement in a series of projects aimed at fostering their intellectual development and social skills . It was through this experience that she saw first hand the effects of generational poverty and developed a passion for investing in the lives of youth which ultimately led to her decision in 2016 to work full time with the children of Newark by founding Keys 2 Success.
For legions of disadvantaged children in Newark, New Jersey, the effects of poverty are not confined to material want. They lack access to the broader cultural inheritance and robust network enjoyed by children in more privileged communities. In particular, they lack exposure to classical music training, which serves as an effective vehicle to develop self-discipline, confidence, critical social skills, and to create a robust social network required to thrive in the wider professional world.
This program seeks to enrich the lives of such children — and to give them hope — through music education. Long-term, it seeks to improve individual lives and the communities in which those lives are lived. The means to that end will be intense, individualized training in the piano, coupled
with percussion work to strengthen rhythmic skills and ensemble work to enhance collaborative ability and peer learning skills.
The goal of the program is not necessarily to produce world-class musicians, though that may well happen. Rather, the goal is to use music education as a means to personal betterment for children who might otherwise lead lives of not only material but also cultural deprivation.
Keys 2 Success is an El Sistema-inspired program, one of some four hundred El Sistema-inspired programs around the world, in more than sixty countries. Initially inspired by Venezuela, El Sistema is now spreading internationally as an effective way to help children whose lives are challenged by poverty, violent conflict or natural disaster.
Starting from Kindergarten, Keys 2 Success will seek to instill not only musical proficiency but also the expectation of success through rigorous, high-quality lessons coupled with performance opportunities. All students will participate in small and large group ensemble work, including a weekly two-hour after-school session that will incorporate orchestral percussion instruments. In addition, a sub-set of students will receive daily, fifteen-minute individual lessons
The program will include performance opportunities with students from diverse communities at the local and state level, as well as opportunities to audition for other arts organizations and to participate in national keyboard assessment programs.
The program will be implemented in the Ironbound section of Newark. Instructors will provide daily thirty-minute piano lessons for groups of six students. Up to 10% of participating students may also elect to receive the fifteen-minute individual lessons referred to above. These sessions are intended to supplement, not replace, existing music programs in the public schools.
Most, if not all, of the students participating in the program will not have pianos at home and will have access to instruments only during lessons, which will, of necessity, function in part as supervise practice time.
Through this musical instruction, Keys 2 Success will instill self-confidence and promote social responsibility, improve communication and leadership skills, and convey a sense of connection to the larger world.